Public Utilities Reports

PUR Guide 2012 Fully Updated Version

Available NOW!
PUR Guide

This comprehensive self-study certification course is designed to teach the novice or pro everything they need to understand and succeed in every phase of the public utilities business.

Order Now

Stringing Transmission Lines, Untangling Red Tape

Centralized federal oversight sounds good, but what about squabbles between separate federal agencies?
Fortnightly Magazine - September 1 2001

problems including blackouts."

Without the line, AEP calculates over 30 different combinations of line outages that could cause problems to the system. With the proposed line in service, says Pasternack, there are essentially no contingencies that would cause any problems.

"Another way you could measure," he adds, "is you look at the amount of customer load in that service area that you could serve reliably ... With the new line, we estimated that-and these are really pretty crude numbers-we could probably serve additional load for a period of about 7 to 11 years... . That's just a very rough rule of thumb. I wouldn't take that to the bank, but it's just another way of getting an idea of what value the new line provides for us."

NERC's Gallagher offers another interpretation. "A lot of time the reason that [companies] cannot get siting approval to actually construct a facility is because it's difficult to demonstrate the need for the facility," he says. "For instance, if a line is going to go through three different states, the states on either end can demonstrate to their constituents what the benefits of that transmission line will be, but the state in the middle has a very difficult time demonstrating the benefit. So, it's almost impossible to get the line built and approved."

AEP's 765-kv line is part of a joint program that involves an interconnection with Virginia Power. Pasternack says that AEP studied the combined benefits in its 765-kV line effort, finding that "with the final approved route ... the transfer capability increases on the order of about 2,000 megawatts."

And what of the elusive TLR metric? The likelihood certainly is that TLR numbers will improve generally, but again, much depends on X-factors such as the weather. "In terms of TLRs," Pasternack adds, "it's really impossible [to speculate] what will happen. We would hope that with 2,000 MW of additional capacity, we wouldn't be calling very many TLRs, at least not on the facilities that are limiting the transfers today."

Reforming the Process

Since transmission lines often cross state lines, some favor turning the whole process of certification over to the federal government, most likely the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

"It's not going to take all of the problems away," warns NERC's Gallagher "because the folks that are impacted by the facility are still going to have their voice heard and are still going to have to be satisfied and soothed somehow. But, if you have one entity that you have to deal with-and I'm thinking it would probably be a federal entity-then that will certainly streamline the process and cut down some of the delays. You won't have to deal with 15 counties and 72 municipalities and four states. You just deal with the federal government. That will help."

Nevertheless, some utilities may have grown to like-or at least accept-the idea of state oversight. AEP suggests that federal authority might step in only as a backstop, if state-centered processes bog down.

"How do you fix it? ... AEP does not believe that we should